Climate Cast: Minnesota #1 fastest warming state in winter since 1970

Every Thursday MPR meteorologist Paul Huttner joins Kerri Miller on The Daily Circuit for “Climate Cast” on MPR News Stations to talk about the latest research on our changing climate and the consequences that we’re seeing here in Minnesota and worldwide.

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These days it seems like we are witnessing climate changes unfold right before our very eyes.

It’s not our imagination.

The nature of our seasons is changing. Spring blooms come earlier. Summer is more humid with a documented increase in extreme localized flash flood events…and more frequent droughts. Fall lingers longer. Lakes freeze up later. Winters are trending shorter and noticeably, measurably milder. New plants are able to thrive in Minnesota’s milder climate.

We’re all living witnesses to rapid climate changes in our lifetime. This is no longer your grandparents “Minnesota.”

In 2013 at MPR we’re devoting more coverage to the science behind and the growing effects of our changing climate in Minnesota and around the globe.

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Lake Mead on the Colorado River near Las Vegas shows the effects of long term drought in 2010.

Image: Paul Huttner – MPR News

You can hear me discuss the week’s top climate stories in our new “Climate Cast” every Thursday morning at 9:50am with Kerri Miller on The Daily Circuit.

Climate Cast for February 28th, 2013:

On this week’s Climate Cast with MPR News’ Chief Meteorologist Paul Huttner, we discuss why Minnesota is #1 on the list of the fastest warming states since 1970.

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Image: Climate Central

Warmer Winters: We’re #1

Minnesota is happy to be #1 in many things.

Being the fastest warming state in winter? That may be a mixed blessing.

A new study from Climate Central shows that Minnesota winters have warmed more than 4 degrees Fahrenheit since 1970. Winter nights in Minnesota have warmed the most, on average over 5 degrees Fahrenheit.

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Here’s an excerpt from the story:

Warming Winters: U.S. Temperature Trends

While the U.S. as a whole has seen a warming trend that has raised annual average temperatures by 1.3°F over the past 100 years, warming varies seasonally, and it’s winter that has seen the fastest warming.

We found:

Since 1970, winters in the top 5 fastest-warming states — Minnesota, North Dakota, Wisconsin, Vermont and South Dakota — heated up four-and-a-half times faster than winters in the 5 slowest-warming states: Nevada, California, Oregon, Colorado, and Washington. The five fastest-warming states have seen at least 4F warming in winters since 1970.

Winter nights have warmed in all but one of the lower 48 states since 1970. Across the continent, winter nighttime temperatures have warmed about 30 percent faster than nighttime temperatures over the entire year. Since 1970, overnight winter temperatures in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Vermont have warmed faster than 1.29°F per decade, or more than 5°F in just 43 years.

The plus side of warmer winters?

-Lower heating bills and potentially fewer winter traffic fatalities.

The tradeoffs?

-A distinct trend toward less snowfall for our winter recreation and Minnesota’s resort economy, and increased stress and more disease and subsequent fires in Minnesota’s prized forests.

As our climate changes before our eyes, we’re still adding up the consequences (benefits and costs) of a warmer climate in Minnesota, and of warmer winters in particular.

Drought 2013: Threading the needle for easing the worst drought since the 1950s

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The 2012-13 drought exacted a heavy toll on corn, soybean, and winter wheat crops, This corn pictured in Iowa in August 2012.

Image: USDA

As we enter the spring of 2013, the worst drought since the 1950s still grips a large part of the Central Plains and reaches north into Minnesota.

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Image: NOAA CPC & University of Nebraska-Lincoln

A parade of winter storms has eased drought from eastern Texas through Arkansas and Missouri to eastern Iowa and Wisconsin.

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90-day precipitation from NOAA/AHPS

Recent heavy snows and spring runoff will increase stream flow and river levels in the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers in the coming weeks.

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Snow cover as of February 28, 2013


But the window for easing agricultural or “soils” drought will be narrow as the ground thaws from south to north this spring. Timely, heavy spring rains will be needed to recharge parched soils in much of the “Midwest Grain Belt.”

Climate Central’s Lauren Morello and Andrew Freedman lay out the scenario for dought as we move into Spring 2013.

Some details:

Time Is Running Out to Avert a Third Summer of Drought

Time is running out to avert a third summer of drought in much of the High Plains, West and Southwest, federal officials warned Thursday.

Without repeated, significant bouts of heavy snow and rain in the remaining days of winter, a large part of the country will face serious water supply shortages this spring and summer, when temperatures are hotter and average precipitation is normally low.

The drought already ranks as the worst, in terms of severity and geographic extent, since the 1950s. Though it’s not over yet, its economic impact appears to be severe, said Brad Rippey, a meteorologist at the Agriculture Department’s Office of the Chief Economist.

It “will probably end up being a top-five disaster event” on the government’s ranking of the costliest weather events of the past three decades, he said at a Capitol Hill briefing Thursday.

“The next couple of months will kind of determine how the spring and summer plays out in that part of the country,” said Jake Crouch, a climate scientist at NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C. Crouch said that continued drought conditions could threaten water supplies in many areas, particularly in the Southwest.

Climate Cast resources:

Want to know more about climate change? Here are few quick links to credible climate change sources.

-Read the Minnesota Public Radio primer on Climate Change

-NOAA NCDC’s “State of the Climate” report

-AMS Statement on Climate Change

-NASA key evidence of climate change

-Great summary of Modern Day Climate Change from SUNY-Suffolk

-Minnesota Climate Working Group climate change resources

-Mark Seeley’s Weather Talk

-Common climate change myths

-Climate change in the news from Climate Central

-More coverage from The Yale Forum on Climate Change and Media

  • janef

    MPR! You have got to be kidding!!

    What’s in this for you? Answer the question.

    Do you have your pension funds all in? Like BBC? Trillions of dollars of pension funds that thought the politics of carbon regulation was a cash cow.

    It was a no-brainer. And endless fount of money. A bottomless well. A golden goose.

    But the science has been examined and found lacking.

  • bobbydole

    I think it’s hilarious when climate change skeptics say ‘follow the money’

  • Gordon near Two Harbors

    Janef, I would bet you are not a Minnesotan, but moved here from somewhere else. Anyone who has lived here for decades knows intuitively that winters have warmed considerably in the past 30 years. There is no debating this.

  • John

    Yes, it has been warmer BUT warmer isn’t bad. I’m a believer that Minnesota will benefit from this NORMAL warming cycle. People around the globe will benefit from warmth. The scare tactics are just that.

    The history of weather changes show that the earth changes, high and low and then low and high. All uninhabited planets are changing too.

    The SUN is very powerful and is NOT a constant. One day there will be NO SUN.

    Change is good!